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Appellate Court Discusses the Age at Which Minors Can Be Held Individually Liable for Their Actions

Earlier this month, the Supreme Court of Utah issued a written opinion discussing the age at which minor children can be held individually liable for their own negligent actions. Importantly, the case did not involve the question of whether the child’s parents could be held liable for the negligent supervision of their son, but instead whether the boy could be found individually liable. Ultimately, the court determined that no child under the age of five can be found to have acted negligently.

children-1217246_960_720Neilsen v. Bell: The Facts

The Bells arranged for their four-year-old son to be watched by Ms. Neilsen while they were away. At some point while Neilsen was watching their son, the young boy picked up a plastic toy and threw it at Neilsen’s face. The toy struck her in the eye. Having already undergone a cornea replacement surgery once in the past, the trauma caused Neilsen to completely lose sight in that eye. She filed a lawsuit against the Bells.

In her lawsuit, Neilsen made two claims. The first claim, which was promptly thrown out by the lower court, was that the parents were negligent in their supervision of the young boy. The court determined there was insufficient evidence of that claim, likely because Bell was the person in charge of the child at the time of the accident.

In her second claim, Neilson argued that the child was individually negligent and that her case could proceed against him, rather than against his parents. Since there was no statute defining the age at which a minor could be held individually liable, and the appellate courts had never decided the issue, the court determined that the child could potentially be found to have acted with negligence, and it allowed the case to proceed toward trial.

The parents appealed, arguing that most other jurisdictions have a cut-off age, and children below that age cannot legally be found to have acted negligently. They argued that Utah should adopt the age of five years old. The plaintiff argued that the courts should assess each case individually and not set a per se age.

Ultimately, the appellate court adopted the defendant’s recommendation, holding that children under the age of five cannot be found to have been negligent under state law.

Have You Been Injured Due to a Minor’s Negligent Acts?

If you or a loved one has recently been injured due to the negligent or reckless acts of a minor, you may be entitled to monetary compensation. In Georgia, unlike in Utah, parents are often liable for the negligent acts of their young children through Georgia personal injury cases. To learn more about Georgia laws as they pertain to your case, contact Miller Legal Services at 770-284-3727 to set up a free consultation to discuss your case. Calling is free, and we will not bill you for our services unless we are ultimately able to help you recover the compensation you deserve.

More Blog Posts:

Negligent Drivers Injured in Georgia Auto Accidents May Still be Entitled to Compensation, Marietta Personal Injury Lawyer Blog, February 25, 2016.

Georgia Governing Law on Damages That a Plaintiff May Be Awarded in a Personal Injury Lawsuit, Marietta Personal Injury Lawyer Blog, March 10, 2016.